Drogheda (pronounced Droh-day-guh) was a wonderful city. We weren't there for long, only about a day, since it was just our hotel that was there. The hotel was D Hotel and was one of the best hotels I have ever stayed in.
Tip number 1. When booking hotels, always check to see if they offer continental breakfast. This saves you money on a meal and you can pack a few snacks for the road. This is how the starving artists like to live.
Most of the architecture of Drogheda certainly makes you feel like you're taking a step back in time. It's the cathedral, pub, small town feel while we were walking through the streets. We were by the port, so the area was bordered by River Boyne.
Drogheda was our first stop and the jet lag almost prevented us from seeing more of the city and from getting dinner. The sun was absent when we arrived, and the showers were on and off for the entire evening. Once we hit the hotel room, we thought 'Oh let us just rest our eyes for thirty minutes.' Well, we were knocked for four hours. When we woke up, we were unaware of the time at first because it was still day out. It was ten o'clock at night.
Another tip. The further up north, the longer the days, and they do close their restaurants by the hour, not by if it's day light out or not. So we walked outside and wandered the streets like hungry, lost, pups in search for an open pub that wasn't just burgers and fries. The rain was pouring, the cobblestone roads glistened as the sun reflected off the water, and I may or may not have jumped in a few puddles pretending to be from some old movie where cobblestone roads in the rain was a thing. We found a great pub and of course we had to order a Guiness. Just wait, there was better Guiness later on in the trip!
The people of Drogheda were very sweet and kind. They were understanding of our tourist ways and lack of knowledge for the country. They really made you feel welcome.
Our flight came in through the Dublin airport, even though our first stay was technically in Dogheda, a thirty-minute drive away. After we got our rental car from Dan Dooley, we explored a little bit of Dublin. It was eight in the morning there, and four in the morning for us. Perhaps the little amount of sleep on the plane was enough or the adrenaline running through our veins, but we were ready to explore.
A huge surprise, even though we read plenty of forums before traveling, was the roads. Oh heaven sake, honey, the roads were so small! There were horns-a-honking, toots-a-tootin', and arms flailin'! (Just kidding, this wasn't America. There were no horns). Now those arms were mine, but as luck would have it, all of the fellow drivers were already forewarned by a "American's Driving" sticker on the license plate. To make things worse, Tyler's phone told him to turn left down this one street. It. Was. A. One. Way. Here came the arms again. The locals seemed to understand and were very patient as we backed out.
Parking was ridiculous in downtown Dublin. It's expensive too, like the oceanfront in Virginia Beach, Virginia. Our first adventure was just to check out the mall. I wanted to be cool like the movies and find a trench coat. On the way there, we passed windows that claimed to have "American Clothes." We must have hit a time warp, because these clothes were taken straight from an eighties catalogue.
The weather in Dublin wasn't the best, and it was a weekday. The atmosphere wasn't anything I've heard it was suppose to be, and this was partly because of the weather, partly because of the day. The sky was a muggy gray and showers were on and off.
Mostly everything was within walking distance; added bonus- getting exercise on vacation. I highly suggest hitting up the National History Museum of Ireland. It's a great place for exposure of the history and many artifacts and it's free. Allow at least four hours to explore. I enjoyed all of the Celtic history they had, as I am using it for a story. They also had a great amount of religious memorabilia. My favorite part was seeing a dress from some way back when, and discovering their waists were nice a plump. Thank you, potatoes.
We took some time out of the day to visit the very famous Temple Bar. It's one of the most visited pubs in Dublin and dates back to 1599. Pretty cool history, but I couldn't tell you anything that was special about it. The prices were decent, but you could find cheaper beer elsewhere. We took advice from follow travelers and did not leave a tip. Cool story: most places already include the tip in the overall price. Also, I highly advice against getting American beer while you're at a pub in Ireland; don't be that guy. It's just silly and you'll get weird looks- we asked the bartender.
Our favorite place in Dublin was the Guinness Storehouse. We had our tickets purchased with our package from Great Value Vacations, so essentially we skipped any lines. Be aware, there are many tourists doing the same thing, so it can get crowded. Some may push and shove, so get out your big guns and show them who is boss. I may or may have not elbowed a few people for gettin' in my personal space. Move like a ninja and you'll be okay for escape. The storehouse was wonderful. You get a few tastings, learn how to pour your own Guinness (properly), and at the end you travel to the top floor, The Gravity Bar, where you drink your pint of Guinness you poured. It was the best and freshest Guinness we ever had. They will also take a group photo, but be sure you don't look at some photographer and not the actual camera. We never did get our photos from that guy...
Another hot spot was St. Patrick's Cathedral. Personally, I find religion to be an ancient cult full of hypocrisy and outdated rules, but they did right with their architecture. The cathedral was beautiful; arches made of stones dating back thousands of years, a large organ occupying a second floor, walls covered in ornate decoration, and windows depicting religious figures and symbols of stain glass. It almost made me want to go back to church.
That feeling left once I did. Now if you think the church was going to give up an opportunity to make money and this was a free go-look-see, then you obviously don't know how religion works. Step through an arch and you're welcomed to souvenirs. I was given a key to tourism and walked through, exiting the brief feeling of being taken back in time. Get your key chain while you can.
I would love to get married there. 10/10 for Patricks Cathedral.
Since we were keeping it cheap, we bypassed paying money to enter the Castle of Dublin, but explored the garden that was free on the territory. Basically their gardeners were top notch. Regardless of the gloom and the recent cold weather, it looked like spring was year round. If I didn't know any better, I would have thought the aliens came down and left some crop circles of their own.
Another place to be famous according to the internet was the Book of Kells.
Be prepared for a good wait to get in. It's located at Trinity College, so it's not a bore to wait. Unfortunately, this is a religious exhibition, so you know it's going to cost money.
Of course, any photographer could make this place look magical, but in reality, it's all blocked off. I would've been delighted to walk in between the rows of book cases.
Each row showcased the Christian Gospel books of illustration dating back to 800 A.D. It was like a library of hypocrisy and judgment, the Christian gods looking down, scorning, as you sin day to day. It's a sin for me to call it magical; that's witchcraft, but go ahead and light me up.
Upon exiting, you guessed it, there was a souvenir shop. It was also a souvenir shop for Trinity College. I got my favorite sweatshirt there. It's maroon and some of the threading is unraveling. I also got a bleach spot on it, but it was worth the forty dollars. Anything for Jesus.
Our time was limited, so we were unable to explore much more. I would have loved to hit the Jameson Distillery and Writer's Museum. Dublin wasn't much of what I expected, but its not Dublin's fault. If you choose to visit, choose to explore the city on a weekend. I'm sure you won't be disappointed.
We drove to Kilkenny (pronounced Kill-Kenny; They killed Kenny! Those bastards!- just a little South Park humor) to see and explore the Kilkenny Castle. The admission was included in our travel package and was a self guided tour. If you've ever been to Jamestown, perhaps on one of the hundred school field trips (if you're from the Hampton Roads area), then imagine walking into one of the settler houses that have original or antiqued furniture, but it being of royal decent and that house being a castle. I could say the same for the Exchange Hotel in Northern Virginia.
It was one of wonder and the size was outstanding. I enjoyed the architecture and layout, as any young girl who grew up fascinated by castles and fairytales may. (Thank you patriarchy for embellishing my mind to love things like this.)
It was full of original furniture, decor, and art. I remember being in front of a grand staircase and dreaming to be dressed in an extravagant ball gown. I'd be off to be wedded to some man twice my age that traded five maybe six cows for my hand in marriage. Then I'd be forced to take up knitting and keep my opinions to myself- we mustn't have thoughts, for satan whispers lies to the she devil who bleeds once a month.
The yard would have been wonderful to roam around back then. It was wonderful when we did it. There was so much land; I would not wanna be the guy to mow that lawn. It had a pathway in the shape of the Celtic Cross and in the center was a fountain. I mean this was yard goals.
The castle was even fashioned with the barrier doors that come down by a pully system.
After exploring the castle we took to the streets. It was what I imagined almost all of Ireland to be. Small cobble roads, local churches sitting on hills, and local pubs playing Brittney Spears.
Tyler's dream came true while we were waiting for our drinks at a pub. A local came up and started talking to us. His name was Dan and he was great. An older gentleman, Dan began conversation asking where we were from. It was quite often we got asked who we were voting for in the upcoming election. We scuffed at the thought of the candidates. He did inform us "Kilkenny was voted the cleanest and friendliest city in Ireland." I will concur it was true. All of Ireland was cleaner than my own house, let alone the United States. He told us about some secret spots most locals don't know about, because you know, they're secret. He told us about a hotel in Killarney that's expensive, but they have a public restaurant and to just order a coffee on the rooftop. The view is unbelievable and one of the best in Ireland.
We traveled to this hotel (Read about it and view photos in Killarney).
We chose to explore a little bit more of the surrounding area and wandered to an old church that was on a hill. They had a lot of churches on hills here. As my calves burned with the rest of my body upon getting closer to the church, I noticed a graveyard. This was killer. The stones were so old, all writing and indentations were eroded away. Stones and architecture like the church and graveyard felt medieval.
I highly suggest taking the time and exploring the small shops, artist markets, and local stores. Wander around. Get lost. It's enchanting.
Waterford was our second stop of the day after Kilkenny. Unless you're poor (so basically all of us, right?), you probably have heard of Waterford Crystal Factory. If you haven't, then you're really missing out on some eye candy.
With our package, we got admission to the Waterford Crystal Factory. This is where they showed us the entire process. First, you start with some sand. Everyone knows glass is made from sand (now you definitely do). Then, you take this rod and collect this melted glass, sacrifice a virgin, and pray for the gods to make a pretty glass.
Just kidding, well not about the sand is glass. I honestly don't remember the full details, but it's a long process and it takes some talented folk to do this. Personally, I would have an anxiety attack just holding molten lava like sand. If you're a talented glass artist, I heard they're hiring.
Our guide told us almost every important trophy (not the ones your kids get for sucking at sports) is made. She pointed to the mold for Obama's Shamrock Bowl from Ireland in celebration for 2012 St. Patrick's Day. They had a replica as well. The detail in the design was beautiful and very tedious I would imagine. They also had a few more replicas and future molds including the NBA trophy for the US.
Upon exiting, we entered the shop. I know I said they were expensive, but they also held hella great sales. I got a set of four wine glasses (beautiful and cut to an intricate design) for thirty-five dollars and a bowl just as detailed for about $20 or so. I got two sets of the wine glasses. These were originally seventy dollars and up.
Now I am too paranoid to take them out of their boxes, so they sit there perfect and pristine so nothing and no one can break my precious Waterford crystal. I suggest keeping anything you don't want to break or is fragile in its original box. Wrap the box in bubble wrap just incase, too.
It's a wonderful experience to see live art and the process of these glasses and masterpieces. From design to dangerous to touch. Just, don't touch anything and all should be well.
It was a short stay in Waterford, but it was a lovely town. My drive by blurry photos from my phone prove that. Go team iPhone 6!
On our way to Cork, I'm not speaking of a bottle of wine, but the city, we passed something interesting. You can watch in the gallery.
Cork, Ireland was home to the famous Blarney Stone, located at Blarney Castle. It's said that whom ever kisses the Blarney Stone will be gifted with mystical eloquence. I'd say it worked, because I'm eloquent as anyone who wasn't eloquent before can be now.
But the most important thing is I didn't extract a disease from the medieval stone. Lord knows how many mouths have been macking on the rock. Tyler was in the clear, too.
We got our entrance to Blarney Castle with our package deal, so I'm unaware of the cost. However, they do take your photo as you kiss the stone, and those are available for purchase. I never say no to an out of the country photo-op. It's was quite nerve-wrecking being dipped backwards to try and meet lips with a rock. I have a fear of heights, so being held backwards where there is a drop that could kill you is not a walk in the park. They do have employees holding the kisser, so it's a bit of a comfort knowing it's not likely to fall. There is also a mesh net underneath to potentially catch the individual. It's very safe, I promise.
Walking through the castle, one can see what used to be, and it was eerie. An entire second floor was missing, but there was evidence and stones that still stood where it was a floor or ceiling. Stairways were narrow and twisted. I imagined while I stood in line what it looked like a few a hundred years ago. The castle itself began being built in 1446. If I remember correctly, there were secret passages in the castle that led down to the entrance where soldiers could throw stones and debris down to kill and harm invaders. So dark, it's like part of the DC Universe.
The rest of the area was like it's own central park. They had statues of Celtic originality, waterfalls, wishing steps, tales of fairies and witches, fields of flowers, giant trees, and the most beautiful house call the Blarney House. The entire area was enchanting and the weather was just as wonderful. It was sunny and low seventies.
There was a beautiful walk way in between fields and hills of flowers and trees. It was said to be the faerie garden. I remember walking through trying to look for fairies, as many locals claim they are real, but more so in the British Isles.
Then we came to a rock formation that was something of a shallow cave. This was the Witch's Kitchen. It was said that the Witch of Blarney came there to warm herself during the night. She was trapped by the Witch's Stone and is believed to come out at night. Luckily for the tourists, they close at dusk. Fun fact: Witches were healers. They practice with the energy of the world. But god forbid women try doing anything right or are seen as powerful; they're given green skin, warts, and a cracky old voice no one in their right mind would want to listen to. It's not surprising to me that upon Catholicism taking over Paganism in Ireland did this become the norm. Wretched religion and old men. *Rolls eyes*
The wishing steps was another folk story. Started by the belief that since the Witch took firewood from their estate, she must grant their visitors with a wish. If you walked up these stairs that were encased in a tunnel while thinking of your wish, then walked back down backwards still thinking of your wish all while keeping your eyes closed, then it would come true within a year. Tyler and I both did it for the fun of it, but I can't tell you what I wished for. Maybe I don't remember, or maybe I am still waiting for it to come true. The Witch of Blarney may still be working on it.
There was a large rock formation that as the tale has it, sometimes rocks back and forth. It's called Dolmen and was also a "wondrous portal." So of course I went through it. It was rather small though, so I more so crawled through.
We found large trees to sit on. Fields to take pictures in. Celtic stones and designs to read about. And they had a few exotic plants on display for the rare botanist. Cork was beautiful.
Ps. You know that stereotype where sheep cross the road and randomly wander around the country side? It's true. Just watch at the end of the gallery.
We began Killarney by exploring Ross Castle. It was castle in the National Park, and the surrounding area was equally photogenic.
It was a clear blue day, forcing many photos to be squinted eye kind of photos. On the castle, however, the lighting seemed to work with us. Old canons guarded the second floor and outside walls. We mustn't let the heathens in. They prevailed further than most castles in the Irish Confederate Wars. Ross castle was amongst the last to surrender to Oliver Cromwell's Roundheads. It wasn't until more artillery were brought through River Laune did it fall. Frickin' Laune, letting those men just sail on through her waterways.
Along the property was River Laune where wooden boats lay astray. It was a step into a Nicholas Sparks book scenery where an out-of-town-girl meets a local boy and something tragic happens and she either lives or dies. I'm tellin' ya, perfect spot for a movie.
At the rest of the National Park, there were greens greener than any green I had seen in the United States. Perhaps that was because I slept during most car rides, but the blackness of my eyelids are still not as green as Ireland.
The National Park was something you see in fairytales. It was something magical. The dirt was so nutrient rich it took a lot of scrubbing to get it off my legs and hands. The trees grew tall, large, and full. Smaller foliage blanketed the grounds, and a waterfall hung pouring to the right. The best part was my lazy self didn't have much to walk to reach all of these enchanting things. I imagine more of the world would be this beautiful if corporate monsters weren't set out to destroy it just to make a quick buck.
There was a stairway leading through an arch of greenery. It sang "enchanted forest portal here." It shall appear only to those who believe in climate change.
I'm so surprised that this nutrient rich, luscious, hydrated, land full of trees wasn't on fire like California. It's almost like the wasted water that spills into the Atlantic Ocean had nothing to do with it's hydration. Surely. however, if it were to catch on fire, deforestation would help. (Tweet deleted by the Orange Cheetoh).
Unfortunately, we had limited time and couldn't explore more or take a hike through the trails, but I assure you, we didn't want to leave and Tyler had to eventually pull me out to the parking lot or 'car park.'
The last place we got to explore in Killarney was the Hotel recommended by Dan. And it was not only beautiful, but the coffee was delicious. The weather was a sunny 72 degrees with a slight breeze. The mountains were like a faint purple-brown in the distance; thank you atmospheric perspective. We got to the hotel just as the sun began to set and the sky was just beginning to transition into a mint green. Who would have thought actually communicating with a stranger would reap so many benefits. Watch out social media, reality might be making a comeback.
Oh, and the hotel was called Europa, but you didn't hear it from me, you heard it from Dan.
Cliffs of Moher
The Cliffs of Moher take their name from an old promontory fort called Mothar or Moher, which once stood on Hag's Head, now the site of Moher Tower.
If you're one to have anxiety, especially heights, this is your warning. At the time I had a tumor growing that effected my brain chemistry, increasing my level of fear and anxiety through the roof. But you can't go to Ireland and not see the Cliffs of Moher or at least risk your life just a little.
The climb up isn't awful, but it is inclined, so stretch a bit before. There are two ends of the cliffs that tourists and locals can travel to and it's perfect for experiencing different perspectives, kind of like actually opening up your mind to other opinions, you know?
Thankfully, the weather panned out and there wasn't a cloud in the sky (okay, maybe a couple, but it wasn't going to rain). If it was wet and muddy, my life to death ratio would not have gone in my favor.
There's a clear path you should take while walking along the cliffs, although there is also an option to jump the ropes and get closer. Tyler did this and nearly slipped, so I advise against it. I actually cried when he almost lost his footing, and got very angry. Fee Fie Foe Fum, angry girlfriend here she comes.
If you're the real science geek and enjoy some interactive learning, then the Interpretive/Visiter Centre (it's centRE not centER) is perfect. It's a really cool place thats basically underground. Keeps those flat Earthers from entering. Information about the formation, wildlife, ecosystems, etc. are all found there. They acquired an audio visual theater, restaurant, and exhibitions. It cost them 30 mil euro, so you know thats some good learnin'.
The Cliffs run for a total of 14 kilometers. For us Americans, thats 8.7 miles. They are a wonderful site to see. Just don't be stupid and die. Now look at all of my pretty pictures.
We had spent our Saturday in Galway, and it was the best Saturday. Honestly, Galway was how I imagined Dublin to be. Sorry, Dub. We really lucked out with the weather for the past three days; Galway maintained lower seventies and sunny skies. We couldn't have asked for better.
We happened to find the 18th-century Eyre Square, a popular meeting spot surrounded by shops and traditional pubs that offered live Irish folk music. Most parked at a car park, as did we, and many streets were blocked off, making it pedestrian friendly.
Stone-clad cafes, boutiques and art galleries lined the winding lanes of the Latin Quarter, which retained portions of the medieval city walls. We explored the Latin Quarter, it's winding cobble roads trailing us through music and art.
Streamers of sorts lined the skies and buildings, local musicians sat and stood along the streets playing classic Irish music, instruments, and folk music. They had teams of twos, threes, and fours, and even some with at least seven members using pots and pans, shoes, anything to create the magic of the rhythm. Feel free to watch the videos in the gallery below!
Among the crowds were local artists painting scenery, people, and local monuments. We caught a few conversations with them and I was in awe from their talents, but also of how much Galway was an artistically thriving city.
We passed by many pop up shops. There were so many craft booths. They ranged from jewelry to watercolor. Everyone was so sweet and it was delightful to see artistry being celebrated all over and by so many people. It was a celebration and understanding for the beauty in art and music. Happiness and respect being emitted was amazing for people who needed to get "real jobs," but I bet people still loved watching movies.
The artistic thriving wasn't limited to visual or audio, but plenty of dancing and performance arts were present. It was like singing and music weren't the only artistry in the world?! Street performers did fun tricks and moves, and were comedic while doing them. Crowds circled the performances and strangers were volunteered to sacrifice their bodies to be jumped over.
Once our wandering souls were satisfied, we decided to rest in South Park. To my dismay, there were no Cartman, Kyle, Stan, or Kenny, but plenty of hilarious and drunk college students. South Park runs along the area of Galway known as Claddagh, where more little shops were acquainted. River Corrib runs along and through the area, and further up. We decided to leave South Park to venture further north to a small little peninsula where there were more college kids drinking and sun bathing. I felt one with these people, as they were all related to Casper as I was!
These college kids were fantastic. All stereotypes came alive. I watched as they drank their beer and messed around. A group of boys were ruff housing and ended up pushing one another into the river. Laughter followed, and the two in the water bellowed for others to join. To my surprise, a boy whipped out his dong and peed in the river, too. We all know what happens when you break the seal. I thought it was funny, and apparently public nudity doesn't apply in Ireland. Free the boobies and unload the package are taken to a whole new level. It makes it all the more kid friendly. The vibrations were all joyous, positive, and relaxing. It was so wonderful, I ended up taking a wee nap while we somewhat tanned.
Eventually, we got up and explored the Fisheries Watchtower Museum. This was Tyler's heaven. It explored the fishes found around the area, reflecting studies of a local marine biology college. At least in Ireland, science is seen as real and no one suggests alternative facts.
Then we made our way to Westport.